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Wishes and hypotheses

Level: intermediate


We use the verb wish or the phrase if only to talk about things which we want but which are not possible:

I wish I could see you next week.
If only we could stop for a drink.
I wish we had a bigger house.
They are always busy. If only they had more time.
John was very lazy at school. Now he wishes he had worked harder.

We use wish and if only with past tense forms:

  • We use past tense modals would and could to talk about wishes for the future:

I don't like my work. I wish I could get a better job.
That's a dreadful noise. I wish it would stop.
I always have to get home early. If only my parents would let me stay out later.

I don't like this place. I wish I lived somewhere more interesting.
These seats are very uncomfortable. I wish we were travelling first class.
I wish I was taller.
John wishes he wasn't so busy.
I'm freezing. If only it wasn't so cold.

  • After I/he/she/it, we can use were instead of was:

I wish I was/were taller.
John wishes he wasn't/weren't so busy.
I'm freezing. If only it wasn't/weren't so cold.

  • We use the past perfect to talk about wishes for the past:

I wish I had worked harder when I was at school.
Mary wishes she had listened to what her mother told her.
I wish I hadn’t spent so much money last month.

Wishes 1


Wishes 2


Hypotheses (things we imagine)


When we are talking about hypotheses, we use expressions like:

what if ... ? in case suppose (that) supposing (that) imagine (if/that)

We use these expressions:

We should phone them in case they are lost.
Those steps are dangerous. Suppose someone has an accident.

Imagine you won the lottery. What would you do with the money?
What if he lost his job? What would happen then?

Suppose you hadn't passed your exams. What would you have done?
What if he had lost his job? What would his wife have said?

Modal verbs

We use modals would and could for a hypothesis about the present or future:

We can't all stay in a hotel. It would be very expensive.
Drive carefully or you could have an accident.

We use would in the main clause and the past tense in a subordinate clause for a hypothesis about the present or future:

I would always help someone who really needed help.
I would always help someone if they really needed it.

We use modals with have to talk about something that did not happen in the past:

I didn't see Mary, or I might have spoken to her.
It's a pity Jack wasn't at the party. He would have enjoyed it.
Why didn't you ask me? I could have told you the answer.

We use would have in the main clause and the past perfect in a subordinate clause to talk about something that did not happen in the past:

I would have helped anyone who had asked me.
I would have helped you if you had asked me.

Hypotheses 1


Hypotheses 2




Hello Ridham!
We always use has with someone; someone is singular. Sentences 1. and 2. are both wrong, and should use has - although "What if someone does not have a car insurance" is correct.
Jeremy Bee
The LearnEnglish Team

But doesn't is mostly used for plural so how can we use doesn't with singular
.thanku for your reply

Hello muntaziri,

'Doesn't' is used with third person singular nouns or pronouns.  'Don't' is used with plural nouns.

Best wishes,



The LearnEnglish Team

In the exercise the sentence:
I sometimes wish I'd had a sister.
 Does it mean that:
I sometimes wish  ( in the present)  I had had a sister ( in the past  but not now)?
Otherwise it would be:  I sometimes wish I had a sister (now) ?
Do I understand it right?
Thank you in advance
Best wishes,

Dear Teacher,
since "would" and "had" have the same contraction ('d), it's really hard for me to distinguish them on sentences, could you help me to understand more about this.
I really appreciate your help. Thank you so much

Dear Luri,
It can be confusing that they both have the same contraction, but remember that 'would' is a modal verb and 'had' is not.
Modal verbs are always followed by an infinitive without 'to' and 'had' (when contracted) is usually followed by a past participle, so often it's clear which one is in use. e.g. 'She'd like to see you.' vs. 'He'd known it for a long time.'
Very occasionally the infinitive and past participle of a verb are the same and then you have to work it out from context. e.g. 'He'd cut down on his smoking before his son was born.' vs. 'She'd cut her hair short if she was allowed to.'
I hope that helps.
Best wishes,
The LearnEnglish Team


Your example 'She'd cut her hair short if she was allowed to.' :

Can we say ' She would cut her hair if she is allowed to ' for the same meaning ?

Dear Adamjk,

Please write the sentence He'd known it for a long time again but not in contracted form and also the second sentence.

Hello muntaziri,

The two sentences without contractions are:

'She would like to see you.'


'He had known it for a long time.'

The sentences Adam gives later are"

'He had cut down on his smoking before his son was born.'


'She would cut her hair short if she was allowed to.'

Dear Adam,
Thank you so much for your help and your clear explanation.... now I'm more understand, just need to get used to to make it more bright in my head...sure by practice...practice...and practice
Thank you so much